Leaping from the runner-up spot he earned in his debut appearance on this roster, Shigeki Okazaki lands in second place. He has worked at Nomura for 15 years, signing on in 1991 after receiving a bachelor’s degree in business from Kobe University. For much of that time, the 48-year-old analyst reported on the Plant Engineering & Shipbuilding category, claiming a position on that lineup for eight straight years, including first place from 2006 through 2011. The following year he became head of the firm’s coverage of Japanese basic materials, including chemicals. Okazaki tracks 14 names in this space — “with much intelligence and clarity,” one portfolio manager remarks — and is known as a longtime proponent of Tokyo’s Mitsui Chemicals, which makes functional polymers, performance materials and petrochemicals. Indeed, he boosted his rating on the company from neutral to buy back in August 2013, citing high demand for its automotive products. The stock was then trading at ¥249.10 and has since soared 46.9 percent, through the middle of last month, to ¥366. During the same period, Japan’s chemicals shares overall rose 17.9 percent. It declined 4.4 percent during the preceding 12 months, compared with the domestic sector’s 22.4 percent drop. The researcher still recommends buying Mitsui Chemicals, crediting in part strong sales of such health care products as specialty eyeglass lenses, with a price objective of ¥510. He also is counseling clients to buy Hitachi Chemical Co., a Tokyo-based supplier of bonding materials and compounds to the semiconductors industry. Its high dividend yield was among his reasons for shifting his position on the shares from neutral in January. By mid-March, Hitachi Chemical had advanced 11.1 percent, to ¥1,954, and was leading its Japanese peers by 16.7 percentage points. Okazaki believes that a price of ¥2,300 is justified.